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            United Gazette
                                         Weekly News from the Capitol
Issue: #10May 19, 2014
A weekly update during the Florida Legislative Session, highlighting how United Way is working to make our community a better place to live.
2014 Session: Wrap-Up Issue


The 2014 Florida Legislative Session is now in the rearview mirror.  Each session has a personality and character all its own and the 2014 Session was not a dramatic one.  Nevertheless, some critically important legislation passed, particularly for child protection and juvenile justice, while other bills died and the Legislature completed its only constitutionally-mandated responsibility by passing a $77.1 billion budget, the largest spending plan in state history.  The 2014-2015 state budget (HB 5001)  includes more than $1 billion in new revenues.

Read on to find out more about important budget items, bills that passed and bills that died, which were of interest to United Ways and our partners.

Governor Scott and House Speaker Will Weatherford meet with Press in the Capitol Rotunda.
Quick Links
Some Bills That Passed
SB 7015 - Veterans: relaxes college residency requirements for veterans and active military personnel; allows for preference in hiring veterans by public and private employers. 


HB 709 - Alzheimer's Research: establishes a dedicated Alzheimer's Disease Research grant making program within the Department of Health.


HB 225 - Booster Seats: increases the age for children required to be secured in a child safety device (car seat or booster seat) from age four to age five. 


SB 1666 - Child Welfare: comprehensive system reform including: child safety, transparency and accountability, and workforce development.


HB 7141 and HB 949 - Human Trafficking: provide supports for child victims of humantrafficking including mental health and substance abuse treatment, mentoring, confidentiality protections and financial relocation assistance.


HB 7055 - Juvenile Justice: amends juvenile justice statutes regarding serious juvenile offenders, adopts measures to reduce recidivism, and increases care of juvenile offenders in the custody of the Department of Juvenile Justice.


SB 242 - Consumer Identity Protection: the 'Keeping I.D. Safe (KIDS) Act' enables a guardian or other advocate for a minor or a disabled adult  to place a security freeze on the "protected consumer's" credit report.


HB 413 - Consumer Debt Collection Practices: strengthens consumer protections against deceptive, unfair, or abusive debt collection practices.


HB 979 - Homelessness: modifies the process and criteria for awarding Homeless Challenge Grants to local Homeless Coalitions.


HB 674 - Background Screening: strengthens background-screening for persons required to undergo criminal background screening; requires increased data sharing among state agencies.


HB 629 - Charity Regulation:  addresses a multitude of fundraising issues for nonprofits; provides increased oversight and regulation by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) of charitable organizations and sponsors, professional fundraising consultants, and professional solicitors.
'Dreamers' watch as SB 1400 allowing in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants passes in the Senate.
Some Bills That Failed


HB 7069 - Early Learning and Childcare Regulation: would have 1) required unlicensed providers to substantially comply with health and safety standards and submit to inspections; 2) denied program eligibility to providers with serious violations; and 3) required staff to be at least 18 years old, hold a high school diploma and be trained in CPR and first aid.  The Senate added several unrelated amendments and the session ended before the House could vote on the bill as amended, so it died.


HB 7/SB 282 - KidCare: would have allowed the children of legal immigrants (about 20,000 statewide), who have lived in the United States for less than five years but otherwise meet the program qualifications, to be eligible for the KidCare program. The bills stalled in committees, largely due to the inaccurate fiscal note provided by the Agency for Health Care Administration. With support from Rep. Diaz, the estimated cost of the bill was reduced from $28 million to $14 million, but not in time for the bill to get through the committee process.


SB 574/HB 159 - Mental Health First Aid: A plan to train teachers and other services providers to identify and understand the signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders passed the full House, but did not get out of Senate committees.


SB 582/HB 479 - Sober Houses: Efforts to regulate sober houses treating those with substance abuse issues failed after the Senate and House were unable to reach an agreement about establishing uniform standards at such facilities through a voluntary certification program.


SB 1726/HB 1354 - Crisis Stabilization Units: A measure to review how the state funds crisis stabilization units, which treat those in need of emergency mental health treatment, passed the Senate, but failed in the House.
Early Learning bill sponsor, House Education Committee Chair Marlene O'Toole (right), with Staff Director, Kathy Mizereck.
Budget Highlights


Child Welfare and Human Trafficking

  • $21 million for hiring new child protective investigators and sheriffs' investigators.
  • $10 million to FL Community Based Care agencies.
  • $4.45 million to increase safety for families in Child Protective Investigations.
  • $8.9 million increase to the Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) program, to assure a guardian for every child.
  • $3 million for enhanced services for victims of sexual trafficking.
  • $7 million increase for Healthy Families, to serve more than 500 new families.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment

  • $20 million to eliminate the waitlist for Agency for People with Disabilities (APD) home and community based services waiver.
  • $5 million to reduce the waitlist for Community Care for the Elderly services.
  • $4 million to reduce the waitlist for Alzheimer's respite care services.
  • $10 million to expand substance abuse services for pregnant women and their children.
  • $12 million for children's Community Action Treatment teams (CATs), providing community-based mental health services to children at risk of institutionalization.

Early Learning

  • $3 million for additional School Readiness slots.
  • $8.8 million for a $54 per student increase in Voluntary PreK (VPK).
  • $2.5 million increase for HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters).
  • $2.0 million for early learning professional development; $600,000 for newborn screening and hearing testing.
  • Early Learning Performance Funding Pilot - $10.5 million performance-based pilot to incentivize higher quality in the state's School Readiness program and pave the way for increased quality of early learning programs statewide.
  • Help Me Grow - $2 million Florida Developmental Disabilities Council initiative to link parents of young children to local resources, including developmental screening, I&R, care coordination, and online resources.

Intensive Reading Instruction:  $75 million to be used by school districts for intensive reading instruction beyond the normal school day in the 300 lowest performing elementary schools statewide. 


Affordable Housing: $167 million in affordable housing trust funds [$100,000,000 for the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program (SHIP) and $67,660,000 for the State Apartment Incentives Loan Program (SAIL)].   


Homeless and Emergency Shelter  

  • $6.2 million for Federal Emergency Shelter program (Emergency Solutions Grants.
  • $1 million for Florida Coalition for the Homeless, local homeless coalition grants. 
Senate Appropriations Chair Joe Negron.
Looking Ahead


All 120 Florida House members and 20 of the 40 Florida Senators face re-election in November.  The 2015 Session will see a new Senate President (Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando) and House Speaker (Rep. Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island)).  They will make new committee assignments and appoint committee chairs, as well as set priorities for the next two years.  Some important issues will be on the table, including whether to expand Florida's Medicaid program to cover more of Florida's low-income, uninsured residents; and revisiting health and safety standards as well as quality improvements for Florida's early learning programs.  Florida's United Ways will continue to advocate for the issues that impact the health and well-being of our communities.  We'll see you next year!


Questions or Comments?
If you have questions or comments regarding the United Gazette and how United Way is working in Tallahassee to support your community, contact Ted Granger, United Way of Florida, or Jess Scher, United Way of Miami-Dade.